tv [untitled] CSPAN June 4, 2009 9:30pm-10:00pm EDT
ms. schakowsky: it's an embarrassment. ms. hirono: as costs go up and up and up, there is no end in sight. frankly, to rely on the private health insurance carriers to resolve this problem which has been with us -- remember when i came here and my mother didn't have health insurance, it was a number of decades ago, i won't tell you how many, but the problems remain. and that is why the progressive caucus is very much focused as we focus on reducing costs and maintaining access and choice for our doctors and health care plans and really focusing on affordable, quality health care that we want to have a public option, a public option to give the people of our country a choice as to whether or not if they have their current private carrier insurance and they're happy with it, they can stay with that. but for those who want to have
another option, who want to see competition in the health insurance market through a private or a public -- excuse me, a public option, that's what the progressive caucus wants to see. this is why so many people from all across the country are supporting health care reform. it's not just top, down. we have been having forums all across our country, in my own state. and i can talk about that a little bit more. i don't want to hug the time, so why don't i send it over. mr. ellison: the gentlelady is right, thank you for taking off our subject tonight on health care. you have done a fabulous job. none of us are surprised. but let's get one of our great champions from the great state of illinois, a fighter from chicago, let's say that january schakowsky has been a dedicated advocate for people for many years, not just in congress, but
before that when she was a social worker. ms. schakowsky: i was a community organizer. mr. ellison: this public option, congresswoman schakowsky, any views you would like to share before you launch into any prepared remarks? . ms. schakowsky: i've had people come into my office day in and day out saying they can't get the health care they need, they have a child or disability or a spouse who lost his job and his health care and also, people come in and say, you know, i'm 63 years old, i hope i can live another two years so i can get medicare, a government-provided health care for seniors and persons with disabilities. and we know that medicare is
one of the most successful programs we have had, something that passed in 1965 and lifted the burden of health care costs off of the most vulnerable people, our elderly and persons with disabilities. this is something that i think many young people are jealous of, wish they had, this government provided health care program that is really a universal program for people over 65 and persons with disabilities. well, now we have an opportunity, something i've been working and waiting for all of my adult life, that we're going to have a health care program for all americans. what is it going to look like? it's going to give americans a choice. if they like what they have, they can keep it. nobody has to worry about anything being taken away from them that they like. but if they don't want to go
back to a private insurance company and want something that we know is reliable, because we've done it with medicare, and the veterans administration, they can choose a public health insurance option. the good news about that is not only will it be there to provide the package of benefits that they want, but it's also going to be something that's really going to save money and make the private insurance industry have to compete with that and make them even better. let me read from a better -- letter that the president of the united states, barack obama, from my home state, a former community organizer, wrote, sent yesterday to the chairman of the senate finance committee, max bachus, and the chairman of the senate health, education, labor and pensions committee, senator edward kennedy. he wrote, quote, i strongly believe that americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option
operating alongside private plans. this will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest. and the other thing he could have said is that it's also going to save us money by helping to reduce the costs all around for health care. in fact, there's been estimates that over 10 years, about $3 trillion can be saved because there will be this choice of this health care option. and it is about time that the united states joined the rest of the industrial world and said, yes, our people are going to get the health care they need. that it's going to be a right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it. let me just tell a couple of stories before i yield back, quick ones. the other day, a friend of mine proudly showed me a picture of her daughter who just had a
baby in the hospital, a darling picture of mother and baby and mom holding the baby in one arm and a cell phone in the other. isn't that adorable, she must be calling friends and family telling about the birth of this beautiful baby. and my friend said, oh, no, she was on the phone with her insurance company right after the birth of the baby, to make sure that things are covered. you know, there are a lots of insurance policies, private insurance policy, that don't cover maternity care. people sometimes aren't aware of that until they have a baby. the other is, i met a farmer about a month ago, who told me he and his family had a $10,000 deductible policy. now this man is included when we count who is insured in the united states of america. but the truth of the matter is, this family isn't insured for most things. unless something horrible happens, a terrible,
catastrophic accident on the farm, for everyday health care, they are absolutely uninsured -- uninsured, paying out of pocket costs. so congresswoman hirono, you talked about think 47 million uninsured, over half of all americans last year reported that they had to forego -- forgo or postpone some health procedure or prescription drug they need sosmed we know it goes way beyond those who are uninsured into most americans and now i got a new report today, 60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to health costs and 75% of those people have insurance. so-called. that is, until they get sick. mr. ellison: may i intrument?
ms. schakowsky: sure. mr. ellison: and be -- feel free to interrupt. but you made a point i want to talk about. medical bills underlie 60% of the u.s. bankruptcies. this is according to a recent study. washington, reuters, medical bills are involved in more than 60% of u.s. personal bankruptcies. an increase of 50% in just six years. now, we've had a certain kind of folks running this place over the last six years, right? the u.s. researchers reported on thursday, more than 70% of the bankrupt families had health insurance, but were still overwhelmed by their medical debts. the team at harvard law school, harvard medical school and ohio university reported in the "american journal of medicine," a very representable institution.
using -- this is a quote from the study, using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies i2007 were medical. 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000 or 10% of their pretax family income, the researchers wrote. another startling quote, most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes, and had middle class occupations. now that's pretty serious. i just want to ask, one of the three of you, do any of you have reactions to this study? i yield to the gentlewoman from california, ms. woolsey. ms. woolsey: you're actually telling my story. i think we all remember that i've said it so many times to all of you. mr. ellison: we never get tired of it.
ms. woolsey: it was 40 years ago, my children were 1, 3, and 5 years old, their father was emotionally ill and abandoned us. i went to work. i was -- like the 45 million people who are uninsured in this country right now, 85% of them are working. i mean, imagine that. so we can't depend on employers to provide all of the health care. well, i was working too. it was going to be months before i was eligible for health care and certainly my husband's health care didn't cover us anymore. and i want to tell you, i would wake up in the middle of the night and sit straight up and think, what if one of my children got sick? what would i do? it would just overwhelm me. now they were too young to worry about what would happen if i got sick, but i also had
-- i never thought i would, so i didn't even worry about that but you know, i had two boys and a little girl, the boys were always breaking something, their arms or they played ball and they were rough and tough. they didn't dare do any of that while we were uninsured because -- i had no way to pay for it. i was working, i was on welfare, but because of getting public assistance, then i became -- we were eligible for medicaid, medical in california. then i stopped waking up in the middle of the night, frightened, so i would have no breath because what if one of my children got sick? what was i going to do? so if you wonder why, first of all, i would support a sing of-payer system, and i will support nothing -- a single-payer system, and i will support nothing less than a good, robust public plan and a
choice for every single american, even if they're covered by their employer. i want them to have that choice of, you know, no, i'd really rather go on this public plan because it's going to be good. when we say robust, we've talked about, what does robust mean? of course it's quality care, it's accessible, and it has benefits, comprehensive benefits from prevention all the way through long-term care. so there's a way of meeting the needs of every single american. now if somebody chooses a private plan, that's perfectly all right. but they get to have that choice. if they don't have a public plan, they also have the choice. they will have -- if they don't want their private plan, they have the choice of the public plan. we're working on that. the progressives, it isn't that -- we are really appreciative of this letter from the
president today and the senate -- senator kennedy is putting a lot of spirit behind a good, robust public plan. but the progressives are defining what that means. we're not going to leave it up to, you know, somebody else to decide for us that this is robust enough because we think there's 80 of us in the progressive caucus and we have a big choice. -- a big voice. this is very important to every single american. mr. ellison: if the gentlelady yields back, i would encourage, congresswoman schakowsky or congresswoman hirono, would you care to respond to this recent study? congresswoman schakowsky made some comments on it. ms. hirono: will the gentleman yield? mr. ellison: of course. ms. hirono: in a country
spending $2 trillion a year on medical care and $45 -- and 45-plus million people are not insured, it's astounding that we continue this system which obviously is not working for people who are working, middle class families, for businesses, we have to do something. and the great thing is, we have an opportunity now, looking at all this data, to come together to make some changes for the first time. we have this wonderful opportunity in over 15 years to make some changes to the system that is not working for anybody, really. mr. ellison: would the gentlelady yield for a quick moment? ms. hirono: i will. mr. ellison: it shocked me that because i thought only people who are struggling, and the progressive caucus is all about
fighting with poverty. i thought this was just a poor folks' problem. but this study seems to say something else. the debtors were well-educated, owned homes, had middle class jobs. ms. hirono: it points out how broken the welfare system is. people who are work, people who are well-educated, people who have good jobs cannot afford their health care. again, it points out there are things we need to do. i mentioned earlier in my remarks i had -- many of us have been having forums, health care forums in our communities. i had one in my community last week on the big island of hawaii. we had representatives from hospitals, from the medical profession, from -- the dean of our medical school. and while this whole health care issue is very complicated, certain common themes came out. first of all, of course, the recognition that the cost is
astronomical, no end in sight, and in terms of what can we do, i was really interested to know that there was this focus on prevention, on primary care, these are two areas that our current system does not reward, does not pay attention to. so we've got this topsy-turvy kind of system where we're actually paying a lot of money for quantity, not quality. . so if we focus on health care for a moment, we would be spending a lot more on prevention so people don't have to go for a period -- long periods of time where they have to go to the emergency room or have to get much more expensive care. so prevention is much more important. but our system does not really pay attention to prevention. also, if we had more emphasis
and support for primary care providers, same thing. we probay would save billions and billions of dollars every year by enabling people to see their primary care providers. and we don't have as many primary care physicians and nurse practitioners and others as we need. but if we spent more time on the primary care side, then we would avoid some of these really expensive kinds of treatments later on. so this system is topsy tur via and i yield back. mr. ellison: let me open the floor back to congresswoman schakowsky. we have a website www .progressivecongress dorgan these are people who want to talk to us. and doesn't employer-funded
health care help to make american business less competitive globally? would you like to respond to this question? ms. schakowsky: if you think about the cost of an automobile, which a lot of people do think about and you know, we certainly want to encourage people to buy american cars, but there is now more cost for health care than there is for steel in that car. that's how much it is. now, when you want to sell your cars around the world and be competitive and you're competing against countries where they have a national health care system and they control their costs of health care, then it's pretty hard to do when employers are facing these double-digit, rising costs in health insurance every year for their employees,
those employers who are good enough to provide it or they have negotiated with their workers to provide health care benefits. so clearly, we have to find a way to get these health care costs under control. and one of the best ways to do that is to have an efficient and quality public plan. and that's one of the reasons why it's so important, not just the quality that's going to be great, but the cost effectiveness. and you've got a chart about the administrative costs of health care. and what we know is that all of these public plans that we have, medicare, medicaid, veterans administration, the administrative costs are very low compared to the private insurance companies. and as a progressive, i want to end as a community organizer, still having that mindset, one
of the things that we do as progressives is engage grassroots support. and that's one of the great things about our website, too, they can talk directly to us. let's face it. as we push for a comprehensive health care for all americans, the people who are profitting from the system as it is are going to be out there pushing against us. mainly, we're going to find that the insurance industry is fighting tooth and nail about having to compete against a public plan. they're out there now and saying it's unfair and not right that they should have to compete. come on. they have had the market to themselves for all of these years and here we are right now with a crisis in our country in health care, when --. when people think about the economy, lots of times they
think about health care. when they lose their jobs, what are they thinking about? health care. if they had an employer plan, they don't have it now. so what we have to do is organize. we have to mobilize. we have to have people out there demanding the kind of plan that's going to help their family, that makes sure that they can get the preventive care they need, can take their kids to the doctor, they don't have to go to an emergency room and wait until the last minute until there's a real serious illness before they get any kind of help. so, i think one of the rules that progressive caucus can do is to go out and help mobilize people around the country around a plan and around a plan that does have a robust public health insurance option in it, because
without that, you better believe that we're going to see the lobbyist from the insurance companies, probably from the pharmaceutical companies, like on the medicare part d. and so, we want to create a partnership in the progressive caucus with americans who want real change in health care. ms. woolsey: remember harry and louise in 1994 when the clintons were proposing a health care plan, national health care plan and the insurance companies got behind this ad that cost millions of dollars about a couple talking about how bad this health care plan would be for america. well, the insurance companies had enough industry -- not one
company -- had enough funds to play that ad over and over and the clinton plan was much too complicated and nobody could explain it to anybody and it never got to being finished in the first place. you know what? people would not be bullied by that kind of ad now. they absolutely have gone through enough fear of losing their own insurance, if they have it, if they're employed. they pay more, get less, every year for what is offered. and they never know if it's going to be there the next year. and those are the people that we're saying, don't fool around with my insurance coverage, it's good. i've got mine. and then seniors, retired folks, i have my retirement, it's good. and then harry and louise scared them to death that we were going
to take it away from them. ms. schakowsky: we are still hearing those same arguments against the public health insurance option saying, do you want the government standing between you and your doctor? do you want the government telling you when you can go to the doctor? it's absolutely baloney. ms. woolsey: i believe they aren't going to pull the wool over the eyes of the majority of americans. doctors come to me or call me or stop me and say, look, i was really against the clinton plan because i was afraid of what i might lose. and they now say -- first of all, one of my favorite doctor friends says they would rather deal with medicare than insurance companies, point blank. they're not perfect, but way better to deal with. so i think there's going to be a
whole different set of supporters for this when we get it down and out and let people know exactly what it is. ms. schakowsky: senator white house said, this is not a harry and louise moment, this is a thelma and louise moment. they were driving -- actually they fell off the cliff, as the president pointed out, we don't want to drive off a cliff. but that's where we're heading right now this this country with health care and the kind of plan that gives the choice to americans and allows all americans to be covered will keep us from falling off the cliff and more. it will make our society much more healthy. mr. ellison: let me yield to the gentlelady. and congresswoman hirono, you talked about the forums that you have had and others have had and
that makes me kind of think about what congresswoman schakowsky and congresswoman woolsey are talking about in terms of organizing people. what kinds of coalitions do you see at these forums. are these folks you are seeing working together? ms. hirono: this system is so broken that you have people from all seeingments, republicans, democrats, doctors, nurses, hospitals, priors, the whole spectrum, small businesses coming in and saying let's fix this and identify the problem. in our country, we like competition. but i don't think anybody could really say that there is competition going on among the private health insurance carriers. it's all very complicated. and january talked about how if you don't read the fine print, you don't know you're not
covered. it's all not transparent. that's why the progressive caucus is supporting a plan that is transparent and accountable. insurance is traditionally regulated or -- regulated in a manner of speaking, very little regulation occurs, at the state level. and at the state level, i'll use hawaii as an example. the state of hawaii regulates the rates for automobile insurance because hawaii is a no-fault state. the state regulates the rates for workers' compensation. most states regulate workers' compensation rates. there is no review of the rates that private insurance health care carriers charge. most states don't even require
any kind of information from their private insurance carriers. and that is why there is no competition. and this is we want to see -- americans, we like competition, we want to see competition between a transparent, accountable public insurance option and a private option. and believe me, if people like their private carriers, then the option, that's what it is, it's choice. they can keep it. if they are satisfied, they ought to be able to keep it. mr. ellison: if the gentlelady would yield back. i want to ask a question of you if i may and what do you think americans say on this poll question. do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all americans have health care coverage or is it not the responsibility of the federal government? does anybody want to venture a guess?
ms. woolsey: i think they think the federal government is responsible. mr. ellison: you're right, 64% of americans say it is. 33% said it's not. most peopleunning for office would like to have those kind of numbers. could i ask another question for anybody? here's another poll question. which comes closest to your view, the united states should continue the current health care insurance program in which most people get their health insurance from their private employers, but some people have no insurance. that's one option. two, the united states should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under the program like medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers? which one do you think americans chose and what percentage? chose and what percentage? congresswoman schakowsky.